Customers, not shareholders, pay your bills

by Aug 31, 2009Operations Leadership

Customers, not shareholders, pay your billsI had to get several insurance quotes last week, since my current agent was not living up to my customer service expectations (especially considering the amount of commission they receive).  Only one of the three companies I contacted impressed me, and this prompted me to write this article and discuss how to better serve your customers.

I’m sure of one thing, archaic strategy of 9-5 customer phone-only support from agents who can not deviate from their scripts is live and well, but the companies practicing this strategy are on their way out. Why? We focus on maximizing the “shareholder value” and forget who pays the bills – the customer. People are becoming a lot more careful with their money and are starting to demand superior service. Companies like Zappos and NewEgg (to name a few) are setting a great example by taking the lead and focusing on their customers first. Just look at the fanatical following those companies get. You can’t stop their customers from raving about how great they have been served. Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, and countless blogs are full of glowing reviews.

I have been fortunate to work for two companies that were truly fanatical about their customers. Our accounts receivable at both organizations were great proof of what customers thought about us and the value we delivered, since we had no need to chase any bad payers. We simply had almost none. There were many instances where customers felt a bit embarrassed that they had forgotten to pay us, since we did exceed all of their expectations.  Here are several key lessons on how to provide the best customer service:

  • Your business processes must allow your customer service and sales reps to have the freedom to behave in the best interest of the company. They are adults. Train them well and trust them.
  • Communicate with your customers the way they want to. If they prefer to do an online chat, you better put that in place. If a team member does not feel comfortable with selling via e-mail, train them or replace them.
  • Your customers will tell you how to up-sell them. You just need to listen to them. Customers actually love to be up-sold, as long as they don’t feel they are being taken advantage of and that the company is truly providing value that they need.
  • Your angriest customers may be the ones who can provide you with the best feedback. Train your youngest team members on how to deal with the angriest of customers. I love customers who bring up weaknesses of the company – sometimes they will tell me things others won’t.

Photo credit: Vitor Lima

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